Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Traitor by Sorj Chalandon

Every so often you come across a book that no one else has read and seems to have passed under the radar and you wonder how it got away. One of those books is My Traitor by the French author Sorj Chalandon. First published in 2007 in France and the winner of several prizes, it was published here in the summer of 2011. Chalandon was a reporter for the French newspaper Liberation for over thirty years until 2008 writing in particular about Northern Ireland. Asked by many why he didn't write something beyond the structure of a newspaper article, it was the revelation on Christmas Eve 2005 that an important member of the Republican movement well-known by Chalandon had confessed to being a traitor that led him to turn to writing. My Traitor is the result.


With a completely unique approach to telling the story of the northern struggle, Chalandon tells the story through the voice of Antoine, a Parisian violin maker who on the spur of the moment on a visit to Dublin takes the train to Belfast. His subsequent acceptance into the community of Belfast Nationalists brings a feeling of kinship that he clings on to and he returns regularly, becoming both a witness to situation in the North in the late 70s and a sympathiser with the Republican demands. In particular he is taken under the wing of Tyrone Meehan, a high-ranking IRA member. Spending time with the people of Belfast, he becomes dissatisfied with his life in Paris and increasingly isolated from his friends as he continually talks of the Irish situation. Living almost in limbo, no longer feeling part of his own community in Paris but never truly one of the people in Belfast, he gives more to the movement by letting people stay temporarily in a bedsit above his Paris workshop and asking no questions.

The quality of the story-telling is superb. It spares nothing in the description of the bleakness and also of the closeness of the community of  late 70s and early 80s Belfast; the poverty, the poor living conditions, the lives of wives and mothers with sons and husbands in Long Kesh prison, the drinking, the hunger strikes and the late night raids on suspected IRA houses. The cleverness of this story is that it is written with a voice of someone from the outside looking in; although the protagonists sympathies are with the Republicans they are always described with an outsiders eyes. And another skill of the storytelling is that even though the book is titled My Traitor and that Meehan is named possessively by Antoine as 'my traitor' through the book, we are almost as surprised as Antoine when in 2005 on the laying down of arms by the IRA he reads the newspaper story of  Meehan's confession as a traitor, falling down in the street in shock.


This is a book that deserves much more attention. Recognised in France, largely helped by the authors name as a reporter, it should be recognised here also.


Published by The Lilliput Press
www.lilliputpress.ie


(An interesting article in The Irish Times from March this year about Sorj Chalandon can be seen here and mentions his most recent novel Retour á Killybegs -not yet translated from the French.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2012/0326/1224313892721.html )


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Slow Mysteries by Monica Corish

The enigmatic title accompanies a lovely cover entitled Whale by the poet, on this poetry collection by Monica Corish who talks of her previous life (community health worker in South Sudan, WHO worker, health adviser for Goal) and her life now, after a disc injury as she writes poetry and short stories. There are over forty poems under four headings; Learning to Swim, Facing in to the Fire, Drinking Tea With Angels and Earth in Our Palms.


This is such a good collection that it was hard to chose poems to highlight. the opening poem, 'Painting the Dreamtime' relates to someone's story of the sea and of the people in an artwork; "Cill Úira, Carrowmore, Knocknarea,/ the waves full in flint grey, swimming green,/ lilac sky. To catch the luminous from within,". The imagery is vivid and the reader can visualise the painting. 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter' is a poem that answers that oft asked question, "And where are you from, and who are your people' in a marvelous recitation of what made up lighthouse keepers in days gone by when they lived alone on a rock for long periods of time, and what made their wives, raising a family alone, "From men who came home/ to wives who were concubine./ From women whose husbands' first wife was the sea."
'Surrogate Granny' for Dympna and the bump is a poem that needs to be seen on the page, a 'concrete poem' with words shaped into a womb. A foetal assessment shows a heartbeat as seen in the final six lines;
                                               
                                                    "black-white
                                                      black-white
                                                      black-white
                                                       the merest
                                                         flicking
                                                            dot
                                                               . "

In the section subtitled Facing in to the Fire a large number are set in Africa where Corish has worked. They portray the harshness of life, the violence and the death, but also, as in 'Mango', the kindness; "The warm blush of it,/ Given by a man in a market stall/ To welcome me,". This sits alongside 'Ntarama, Rwanda, 1999' where evidence of genocide is described, "All around lie skeletons,/ hair still clinging, black and brittle,/ to dismembered skulls." and 'Mwambi' where the speaker is shown around by a man who cheated death by lying beneath the bodies of dead neighbours, "The man with the bullet wound/ still visible in his forehead/ as neat as a shilling".

Drinking Tea With Angels gathers together poems dealing with religion and angel encounters, some very humorous in their everyday descriptions. 'Afterwards' addresses the immaculate conception, and asks whether for Mary 'Having known the angel/ was she restless/ with the man?".

In the final section, Earth in Our Palms, the poem 'The Years of Living Slowly', the speaker tells of dealing with an injury and subsequent medical attention with its effect on a planned life. The poem is a struggle with what life has sent but it is also an eventual philosophical acceptance,  "I began to understand:/ this is no interruption to my life./ This is my life." The closing poem of the collection also draws on a lighthouse. 'Knucklebones' which is dedicated For Tim, who is weaving a story out of the sinking of the HMS Wasp in 1884. Searching the rock where the ship sank , the other story of the sinking is broached; "There is a rumour, always denied:/ on the night of the sinking/ the light was out."


As with all poetry, this is a very personal collection, even more so as Corish explores her experiences in Africa and her injuries that called a halt to this part of her life. It is a very rewarding collection with so much for the reader to take away with them to consider, not least the vividness of the descriptions of sights seen in Africa not seen by the normal reader except through the medium of television.

Slow Mysteries is published by Doghouse Books.
www.doghousebooks.ie

Damson Diner-Great Fresh Flavours

We've been meaning to try Damson Diner on South William Street ever since it's slightly delayed opening due to water problems. We'd wandered past while the building was going on and it looked like this was going to have something different to offer the Dublin restaurant scene. Finally after a last Christmas shopping mop-up on Monday afternoon we headed over to see what it was like. It works on a walk-in basis and even though it was early Monday evening, because it was so close to Christmas there were a fair few tables and benches taken. Seating is in the window, on high bench tables along the wall, at the diner counter and at tables at the rear of the restaurant. There is also some lovely booth seating upstairs.
We chose to sit towards the back of the restaurant and started with drinks; a grapefruit juice and a gin with pink grapefruit infused with warm spices from the Damson Diner spiced range. The bottles of infusing alcohol are shelved behind the bar and look very attractive. The gin was warming but fresh with the grapefruit and perfect for a winter evening.
DAMSON DINER

The menu is really laid out well; Bites, In a Bowl and From the Grill and at last there are some new dishes available to the Dublin diner. There is an Asian slant to the menu complementing the traditional American diner classics. Burgers are there (I saw several delivered to surrounding tables and they looked great) as is steak, but touches like pork chops marinaded two days make seemingly normal dishes or cuts of meat special. I ordered gambas (prawns) and a side of Asian slaw with a mango and lime dressing. The prawns were full of flavour, beautifully prepared and the slaw was really fresh and zingy in the mouth.Also ordered was the ribs, with an Asian apricot and ginger glaze, with a side of fries. These were tender and falling of the bone, just as they should be.
A shared dessert of coconut ice cream and grilled pineapple skewers made a really good sweet end to a quick post-shopping supper. I hope to be back soon to try some other dishes from the menu and can see this becoming a regular dining stop-off.

Damson Diner- 52 South William Street, Dublin 2. 677-7007

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Marco Pierre White's- Best Steak in Dublin?

Last night I had a pre-Christmas celebration meal at Marco Pierre White's on Dawson Street. The whole meal could not be faulted in any way. We arrived at 8.30 to be taken to one of the best tables in the window looking out onto their lovely outside seating area.

                                                    
With menus presented by the lovely waiter Tomas, and celebratory proseccos delivered we all considered the menu. Bread and and a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were brought to the table- the chewy sour dough bread was delicious and a second basket was promptly requested. Starters ordered were Castletownbere crab and baked St. Marcellin cheese. The crab was a generous portion, dark and white meat separated and presented in a turned -out ramekin shape, flavoursome and light, with a muslin wrapped lemon, herbs, mayonnaise and  and a light crunchy flatbread. the St.Marcellin was served in a ceramic pot and devoured and reported to be delicious.
We had all ordered fillet steaks; a classic sauce Béarnaise, a beurre a la Bordelaise with red wine and shallots, and a black pepper, raisin and Armagnac.
 Each was served with fat hand cut chips and we ordered creamed spinach and grilled field mushrooms with garlic butter. Beautifully presented the steak was tender and perfectly cooked.

Almost defeated, we moved outside to order an  Eton Mess with raspberries and an Irish cheese board with quince jelly to share between the four of us, followed by coffee and brandies.
The pleasure of dining here is that it is top quality food without all the pretension of some other eateries. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, good music in the background, excellent service with a genuine French brasserie feel to the place. Even though the prices are high it is a restaurant that one would return to for its ambiance and service and above all, the most important thing, just really great quality food. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

With Barry Flanagan:Travels Through Time and Spain by Richard McNeff

This beautifully produced book which contains many drawings and photographs is an account of the friendship and working relationship between the author and Barry Flanagan, the Welsh sculptor and artist who is best known for his bronze hare statues. A student of St.Martin's School of Art in the sixties and subsequently a teacher there, he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1982. He was made a CBE in 1996.
From the mid-1990s Flanagan lived and worked in Dublin and Ibiza and had become an Irish citizen. In 2008, the Hugh Lane gallery organised an outdoor exhibition of ten of Flanagan's sculptures along Dublin's main thoroughfares. This co-incided with a major exhibition in the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Barry Flanagan died of Motor Neurone disease in 2009. His work can be seen worldwide and a retrospective show was held at the Tate Britain at the end of 2011. This year fifteen of his works were displayed at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire in a Sotheby's sale.
       
Leaping Hare on Crescent and Bell,       Large Nijinsky Hare on Anvil Point,
London                                                        O'Connell Bridge, Dublin

The end sheet presents twelve shots of Flanagan which immediately reveal his playful character as he tips his hat or hides behind a sculpture. The cover is telling- a well-dressed Flanagan sits on the floor wearing a three-piece suit but with bohemian open-toed slippers on his feet.
 
The book covers the time when the author first met Flanagan in 1987 to his death in 2009, with particular focus on an exhibition put on in 1992 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ibiza where they both lived.
Born in 1941, his three elder siblings had been evacuated the year before to America, arranged by his father's employer Warner Brothers. This meant that he was an only child until he was five, when they suddenly returned. According to his mother ' "he never got over it" '.
An artist of international repute, the author first saw Flanagan at a wedding but did not meet properly until at a literary reading in San Juan. Meeting afterwards in the author's home, he realised he was in awe of him and silenced, a unusual state for a man who described himself as 'garrulous in nature'. Flanagan's strong and sometimes difficult character comes through in stories such as on losing his license and needing a driver how he had the car modified so the horn was on the passenger side and 'had no compunction about using it and did so frequently,...narrowly avoiding a fight...on one occasion. It was his way of staying in charge.'

Flanagan saw the "tortured artist" as a cliché and 'deliberately took the romance out of his calling by describing himself as a tradesman and his practice as a trade.' His eccentric way of dealing with people led to one appointment with a photographer being sent instructions by a phone call (before mobiles) to ' "Kindly get on with it...The birds, what else?" ', which referred to a sketch of three birds on the wall, which were duly photographed, then made into an etching and an edition of eighty prints.

This book is chock full of 'Flanagan anecdotes' and as a reader I felt like I was being let in on a secret of these bohemian artists who had lived in Ibiza and their hippy and boozy lives. It is a fascinating account and whether you are familiar with Flanagan's artistic work or not, this is an extremely interesting biography which is a great read that will leave you more knowledgeable about the artist as well as entertained by the stories.

With Barry Flanagan: travels Through Time and Spain is published by The Lilliput Press
www.lilliputpress.ie

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Outward and Return by Gréagóir Ó Dúill

This is Gréagóir Ó Dúill's sixteenth poetry collection, the majority of which have been written in Irish. He has lectured in Queen's University Belfast and Waterford IT and lives in Dublin and the Donegal Gaeltacht.

Outward and Return is a lovely collection which includes poems on Ireland and abroad; Paris, Berlin, Venice and Chicago, poems on nature, Irish history, artists and literary figures, in particular Yeats.


The opening poem 'Seaweed' is light and full of movement and rolls along the page as it is read; "yo, ho and up she rises, drops, then up/ again, small runnel of sand/ dropping away as she kites up high". 'Driving into Paul Henry' is a great title for the speakers journey home, driving through countryside reminiscent of Henry's art work; "Turfstacks the size of houses loom,/ stack-shaped houses shrink./ A donkey stands by, perishing in the cold." The effect of the poem is immediate, bringing to mind a visual image of Paul Henry's artwork.

'Anjou' is a three-part poem reflecting the beauty of this French former county, but Part(iii) describes a drought not witnessed before "all is different here" by the speaker; "Animals keep to the shade but thirst drives them/ to muddy pools, twenty wild pigs on one etang*/ and the ribs of cattle show". Ó Dúill explains an etang as an 'artificial pool for agricultural purposes' (such as oysters). "Chicago reflects on the airplane journey to get there, "ten hours of flight against a headwind,/ the indignities and intimacies of the eggbox," and the security measures on arrival, "... the vigilance of a people whose retina/ will bear an image always, twin towers airplanes". It takes just a few days for the speaker to settle in and l accept the cityscape and its history and he realises "... that I could live here, as so many/ of my people and of other peoples have, together".

'The Mountain, afterwards' is a gentle and pensive poem on the way the world carries on after death and the acceptance that "The dawn will rise...". This continuation is "when she is no longer here/ and I am." It is a philosophical poem, brief but affecting and I found it very moving. 'Yeats and Leda' responds to Yeat's own poem 'Leda and the Swan', based on the Greek myth of the rape of the girl Leda by the God Zeus who had assumed the form of a swan. Opening with the lines; "Yeats, you tell it well:/ that feathered rape overmastered her/ then let her drop, aware, empowered', the speaker then turns from the swan to another bird, the little egret. He considers how "Leda would not have been surprised by him" and there would have been "no fecund womb, no slung egg, no endless war." It is a clever rewriting of a well-known story with a new what-if to mull over.



This is a rewarding poetry collection that fills the reader with many different emotions. They are accessible and have an intelligent depth to them and as a non-Irish speaker it is great to be able to experience Ó Dúill's poetry.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Book Lists

It's the time of year when everyone interested in books is making 'best of the year' book lists. I posted one on Saturday from The Irish Times which was a particularly good list and much shared around on Facebook http://dublinduchess.blogspot.ie/2012/12/irish-times-top-titles-of-2012.html

This one is from Matt Cooper's Last Word on Today FM yesterday where Declan Burke and Nadine O'Regan joined him to discuss the best fiction, crime fiction, short stories and gift/picture books of 2012. Several are them were duplicates of those nominated by the Irish Times which I have not repeated here.
The full list can be seen here:
http://www.todayfm.com/Shows/Weekdays/Matt-Cooper/Matt-Cooper-Blog/12-12-11/Last_Word_Books_of_2012_-_Fiction.aspx?ReturnURL=%2fShows%2fWeekdays%2fMatt-Cooper%2fMatt-Cooper-Blog.aspx


     
  
   
   
   
     
I'm always interested in 'disappointment' lists as well, because that's exactly how I often feel when reading prize winners or much hyped books when the less well known authors and independent presses are bringing out great work. I too was disappointed when The Song of Achilles won the Orange prize, when Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies and Georgina Harding's Painter of Silence were such great books and so much better.
Here is their list;
DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR:
NW by Zadie Smith: Nadine: “Let down from a very talented writer.” Focuses on 30 characters growing up on estate in London. Smith’s talent shines through in pieces but not enough.#
Canada by Richard Ford: Declan’s described it as a ‘circus tent of a novel’. Two big events at either end and not a lot in between…
The Chemistry of Tears. By Peter Carey: Nadine: “Outrageously boring.” Skips between modern-day London and Germany in the 19th Century.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: One of the best reviewed crime novels of the year. Went the way of many good TV series – started well, became implausible mid-way through and then became completely crazy.
The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller: Poor telling of Achilles and his bid for immortality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Year in l'Ecrivain

Now that's what-I'm-talkin-abouuut! The rather fab New Year's Eve tasting menu from Derry Clarke's l'Ecrivain is stylish, mouth-watering and just downright yummy sounding. Okay, so I forgot to mention that it's €95 but for a lovely present or just to bring in the New Year in style this menu is as good as it gets. Any generous benefactors out there?

Welcoming Cocktail

Amuse Bouche 
~*~*~*~*~*~*
Scallops
Fennel Purée, Squid Ceviche, Seaweed Macaroons
 Or
Halibut
Roast Jerusalem Artichoke, Confit Pear, Iberico
Trompette Purée
~*~*~*~*~*~*
 Foie Gras
Seared, Spiced Meringue, Quince & Foie Gras Mousse
Smoked Ballotine, Mulled Wine Jelly
Or
Quail
Baked Chervil Root, Braised Endive, Red Wine Shallot
~*~*~*~*~*~*
 Dry Aged Hereford Prime Beef
Fillet, Root Vegetable Terrine
Celeriac Purée, Ox Cheek Brûlée
Or
Venison
Roast Pumpkin, Cocoa Candied Seeds
Walnuts & Juniper Sauce
~*~*~*~*~*~*
European Farmhouse Cheese
Or
Spiced Plum Tart
Mulled Wine Plums, Rice Pudding Ice Cream
Cinnamon Foam

Tea/Coffee
Petits Fours

L'Ecrivain
109 Lr. Baggot Street
Dublin 2
01 661 1919


Caravaggio Conspiracy by Walter Ellis

I've just started reading this book and wish I hadn't. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with it, in fact I love it, and there's the problem. You see I'm thinking this would have made a perfect 'reading in the Christmas holidays' book, when you can curl up in the chair uninterrupted and read for several hours at a stretch. But I've started it now- and can't put it down!


Set in the early 1600s, when Caravaggio was painting and in the near future on the death of a Pope, the characters are skillfully drawn and you are swept into the story from the start. In Rome, the Pope has died and the primates are gathered together to elect a new one. But the Muslim faith is encroaching on Europe and there is some dissent about what exactly the role of the church is in modern day. Meanwhile, Caravaggio (real name Michelangelo Merisi) is painting a new commission and discussing the reception of his other works with his reclining naked model, a twenty-year-old courtesan. The book has all the required ingredients of a page-turner; sex, conspiracy theories, mysterious deaths, religious plots and the too-ing and fro-ing between times from the 15th century to the unspecified future. The unassuming hero is Declan O'Malley, an Irish Jesuit and his nephew Liam Dempsey who follow the clues to unravel a plot. Of course, the fact that the story draws on Caravaggio's lost masterpiece The Betrayal of Christ, which hangs in The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and which any regular visitor will be familiar with, helps to stoke our interest but this aside it is a great read and one that will be keeping me up late for the next couple of days.

N.B. Walter Ellis the author has just emailed me commenting on the difficult availability of this book, and so if you like the sound of it you might try contacting the publishers directly. 

The Caravaggio Conspiracy is published by The Lilliput Press.
www.lilliputpress.ie

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Angels' Share by Barbara Smith

The title of this collection and of one of the poems Angels' Share, refers to the quantity of alcohol lost to evaporation during distilling, as I'm sure you all know! The collection is made up of over fifty poems; eighteen, followed by the 'Mallory Sonnets' and then a further eighteen poems.

'Shackleton's Portable Homeland' sets out an interest of Barbara Smith's in explorers. Inspired by a report in The Irish Times in February 2010 it describes the living conditions of the winter hut in Antarctica- using wooden cases for furniture; "...re-using bottled-fruit cases/ or those of herring fillets, to make bunk spaces,/ pantry, bakery and a dark room...". I was struck by the plain language and real-ness of the description of a climb in 'A Rare Occurence at Glenbeigh' which just connects you to the poetry; "backgrounding our own huffing up the hill/ and a shower dampens off the moonshine,/ speckling our rain-cheaters and our spectacles."

The sad and affecting poem 'From the Land of the Living' of a teenage burial with Dublin jersey and Liverpool scarf in the coffin, plus a mobile phone, to which his brother now ten "still texts you/ the scores/ on a Saturday." At the other end of the emotional scale, they don't come much funnier than 'Pair Bond', dedicated to Dolly Parton and I'd love to hear Barbara Smith reading this one. The vast body of the poem is made up of euphemisms for breasts, "my God's  milk bottles, my Picasso cubes,/ my chesticles, my cha-chas, my coconuts,/ my dairy pillows, my devil's dumplings,", as a barmaid prepares a pint and is addressed to her chest. What fun Barbara must have had writing this, but it is one with a feminist reading too. I particularly like 'Five Gifts From a Summer Lover' with its descriptions that set off your senses; "the brackish stench of cockleshells" and "the last vinegared crispy bits/ in a grease-translucent chip bag'. Your mouth waters as you read the last line, almost smelling the seaside chips.

The 'Mallory Sonnets' has an introduction describing Mallory the Everest climber's disappearance on the mountain in 1924, after his fourth attempt, and the finding of the body along with some personal effects in 1999 by a Research Expedition. The poems are set out as 'Prologue: Summiting', 'First Expedition: Reconnaissance, 1921' (five poems), 'Second Expedition: Summit Bid, 1922' (two poems),  'Last expedition, 1924' (twelve poems) and finally 'Epilogue: Discovery 1999'. This is obviously a story that fascinated Barbara Smith and her version of the events in a sonnet series brings together the mystery and wonder, her interpretations and the rhetorical questions. The poems entitled with the effects found with the body bring forth descriptions and questions; 'Matches'- "kept deep and dry in a leather pouch", 'Glove'- "Inside your jacket I was furled...". It is an emotive set of poems, drawing the reader into the impossible challenges that these men took on. The 'Epilogue: Discovery  1999' describes the body found freeze dried seventy-five years later; "ragged layers of old natural fibres,/ a shirt scrap, at the nape, a tag for laundry,/ an embroidered name; George Leigh Mallory."

In the second set of poems, 'Hexic' is a poem that needs to be seen on the page. Spoken by the voice of the queen bee, the poem is laid out in hexagons  as a honeycomb, the life-cycle of the hive opened and closed in the poem with the same four lines:

                                                                     empty now
                                                                   once I queened
                                                               this whole byke alive
                                                              constructed some cells

The closing poem is priceless and laugh-out-loud. 'Spectacular Effect' describes that situation every woman knows in the changing room checking out the rear view of jeans between two mirrors and to "see your eyes horrified/ by an infinity/ of huge arses".

Barbara Smith writes with humour and with compassion, about grief and about joy in this collection. For the 'Mallory Sonnets' alone the collection is worth reading but it has lots more to offer besides.
Barbara Smith has read at literary festivals and the Electric Picnic as well as with the Poetry Divas and the Prufrocks. This is her second collection. She has a blog www.intendednot2b.blogspot.com
Published by Doghouse Books.
www.doghousebooks.ie

Tromluí Phinnochio/ Pinocchio - Nightmare at Smock Alley.

I'm really looking forward to going to Smock Alley's Panto/Play this Christmas. Opening this Wednesday 13th December it promises to be something quite different from the 'He's behind you!' pantos.




Performed by Moonfish Theatre Company, it was on as part of the ABSOLUT Fringe Festival in Dublin earlier this year. It's bilingual and I haven't a word of Irish except 'ispini' so I've fingers crossed I won't be confused (it's not difficult I must admit). But it's a play for kids so how difficult can it be?
Billed as an 'alternative Christmas experience' the Theatre website says that it 'shines a dark light on the famous story, centring around a teenage boy who feels trapped between childhood and adulthood, living in a world alongside talking animals, fairies and ghosts'. 
  

There are two matinees; 12.30pm and 2.30pm then an evening show at 7pm.
Compared to the expensive pantos on in Dublin the tickets are a great price; €15, €12 concessions and €40 family.
www.smockalley.com/theatre/

Portobello Notebook by Adrian Kenny

Portobello Notebook is 'just what it says on the tin'- a notebook collection of reminiscences, experiences and stories connected in some way with Portobello in Dublin 8, that little spot of Dublin that stretches from the South Circular Road to the Grand Canal, bordered west and east by South Richmond Street to Upper Clanbrassil Street. Now that's sorted we can move on to the book! Adrian Kenny the author has been an English teacher, journalist and broadcaster and the book collects his writings from over thirty years. Some of his past jobs are drawn into the tales, in particular his role as a teacher.
This book was a little gem to discover, to dip into and enjoy a story at a time or to wolf down in one sitting as I did. Some are sad, some are revealing but all are written with a quiet precise voice where no word is wasted; each is considered and carefully put together to tell the story in its best way. In this way it was a pleasure to read and I was sorry when I reached the end.

'Settling In', a short reflection on moving into the area, ends tragically with a drowning. 'Harry' refers to the experience of writing and 'Going Back' returns the speaker to a childhood memory when he meets a man on the train. There are tales of past loves and of disappointment in love and in 'Saturday Evening Mass' there is final acceptance of thing that used to annoy about a parent who is nearing the end of life and a meeting of an old friend, now a homeless drifter. 'The Cricket Match', the longest piece in the collection, is about a young man finding himself as he detaches himself from the family home and also an experience that left him ill.


Kenny's previous work includes Before the Wax Hardened (1991), Istanbul Diary (1994) and The Family Business (1998)  and this book left me keen to explore more of his writing.

Published by The Lilliput Press
wwwlilliputpress.ie

Sunday, December 9, 2012

As Noddy Holder says "It's Chrissss- massss!"

It's officially Christmas - I've started the shopping. I've bought the Christmas pyjammies in Penney's, the Christmas dresses, the Cd's, the calendars and the books. I've ordered the pressies to go abroad online from Marks n Sparks and Book Depository.

I know it's officially Christmas because we came home from shopping, had our tea early and settled down to watch the fave Christmas film- Elf. It's gotta be the best.

Yesterday I went to the butcher and ordered spiced beef which they spice themselves and a turkey crown. I'm feeling pretty smug as I work my way down the list; tick, tick, tick- even something for the hubbie. I'm sure I'll still have a few last minute bits to get but now I'm feeling pretty relaxed and can't wait for a lovely week at home watching movies and walking on the beach, eating cold meat sandwiches and drinking gin n tonics.